World Poetry Day: Poems from Prolific Black Women Poets to Expand your WorldviewsMar 21, 2022 10:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo
“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who did not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We are taught that silence would save us, but it won’t” - Audre Lorde
March 21st is World Poetry Day. In celebration of rhetoric, artistry, and female poets of the African diaspora, we are highlighting prolific poets from around the world and their work.
Sonia Sanchez, the Birmingham, Alabama-born poet, has been cultivating communities through poetry for decades. As a master’s student at New York University, Sanchez formed a writer’s workshop that would be attended by other notable writers such as Amiri Baraka, and played an integral role in the creation of the ‘Broadside Quartet’, a collective that featured Etheridge Knight, Nikki Giovanni and more. The Philadelphia-residing, award-winning, world-performed artist developed the Black Studies program at San Francisco State University during the 1960s.
In her poem “This Is Not a Small Voice”, Sanchez writes:
“This is not a small voice
you hear this is a large
voice coming out of these cities.
This is the voice of LaTanya.
Kadesha. Shaniqua. This
is the voice of Antoine.
Running over waters
navigating the hallways
of out schools spilling out
on the corners of our cities and
no epitaphs spill out of their river
This is not a small love
you hear this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning
on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet
that nourishes, conceives, feels the
mends the children,
folds them inside out history
toast more than flesh
where they suck the bones of the
and spit out closed vowels.
This is a love colored with iron
This is a love initialed Black
This is not a small voice
( Patrice Juah at a UN event. Image by U.S. Mission Photo/Eric Bridiers via Flickr )
Patrice Juah, the former ‘Miss Liberia’ is a Liberian writer, philanthropist, and editor. Her triumphant story of surviving the Liberian Civil War is evident in her writing and endeavors. Her initiative, the Martha Juah Foundation, provides young Liberian girls with education and leadership resources, with programs like ‘Sexy Like a Book’ and beauty pageants providing positive outlets for growth to Liberian female youth. Juah, a woman of many accolades, is the author of books that include the collection of poems Under Ducour Skies, a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellow of the United Nations, and has a Masters Degree in International Affairs from IE University in Madrid, Spain.
In her poem “The African Dream”, she writes:
“Why wither away in the land overseas?
I’m here at home, feeling the dust and breeze
I go through my struggle with relative ease
No stress over bills or mortgage
Because when you’re living the African dream,
It liberates you.”
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bell hooks, the Kentucky-born writer, teacher, and activist explored varying subjects through her works, which spanned over 30 books, including intersections of classism, feminism, and Black identity. Some of her works are Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Teaching to Transgress, And There We Wept and Aint I Woman: Black Women and Feminism. In her world-renowned book All About Love: New Visions, bell hooks argues “Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust’.
In the poem “Appalachian Elegy (Section 1)”, bell hooks writes:
“hear them cry
the long dead
the long gone
speak to us
from beyond the grave
that we may learn
all the ways
to hold tender this land
hard clay direct
rock upon rock
strong green growth
will rise here
trees back to life
pushing the fragrance of hope
the promise of resurrection.”
Lorna Goodison, the Jamaican-born poet, teacher, and painter, is the author of short story and poetry collections that explore the cultural, social, historical, and political lens of Jamaica. Goodison is a recipient of the Jamaican Musgrave Gold Medal, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas, and the British Columbia National Award for Canadian-Non-Fiction. Goodison’s work, which gives voice to the varying roles of Jamaican women in society, can be found in many international anthologies.
In her poem “Praise to the mother of Jamaican art”, Goodison writes:
“She was the nameless woman who created
images of her children sold away from her.
She suspended her wood babies from a rope
round her neck, before she ate she fed them.
Touched bits of pounded yam and plantains
to sealed lips, always urged them to sip water.
She carved them wormwood, teeth and nails
her first tools, later she wielded a blunt blade.”
Her spit cleaned faces and limbs; the pitch oil
of her skin burnished them. When woodworms
bored into their bellies she warmed castor oil
they purged. She learned her art by breaking
hard rockstones. She did not sign her work.”
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Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ( www.asieduasimprint.com ).
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